While it’s probably the most unsurprising playoff pairing this year, this Saturday’s AFC Divisonal matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots – as history proves – is sure to be a show.
I love games like this, when a veteran quarterback (Pats’ Tom Brady) goes up against a young-but-confident quarterback (Colts’ Andrew Luck). Playoff games typically feature two seasoned QBs (ex, last time’s Brady vs. Peyton Manning), but this year it’s going to be a showdown of David and Goliath mentalities.
Luck, a second-year quarterback, is about to walk into Gillette Stadium on Saturday and try to take down one of the greatest QBs in the history of the NFL.
But let’s go back to last weekend. Wild Card Weekend. When the Colts pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in NFL history against the Kansas City Chiefs, beating them 45-44. And while the Colts are lucky, lucky, lucky to still be in the running this week (thanks to some poor execution from the Chiefs), Luck did throw for over 440 yards and had four touchdowns.
But this game will be much different. The Pats are not the Chiefs. The Pats will leave no room for error.
Last year’s matchup between these two resulted in hammering of the Colts, who lost 59-24. But remember the Pats were actually healthy last year. This time, they’ll be without wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski, two of their most dangerous offensive weapons, and it’s no secret they’ve had some issues filling those giant shoes this year.
And give credit to the Colts. Since last year’s game, both Luck and the Colts’ defense have steadily and impressively improved. The Pats will find themselves tested by Colts’ outside linebacker Robert Mathis – the regular-season sack leader with 19.5 – who’s racked up five sacks in his last four games alone.
However, the Pats’ running attack has the ability to put up some big numbers against the Colts. Expect LeGarrette Blount, Week 17’s AFC offensive player of the week, to cause the Colts’ defense some heartache (and probably some leg cramps). Then add Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to that potential leg cramp list. Then there’s Pats’ wide receiver Julian Edelman, who will probably be the most effective target for Brady on Saturday.
Look for Luck to connect (or attempt to connect) with tight end Coby Fleener and receiver T.Y. Hilton. Last week vs. the Chiefs, Hilton posted the third-highest receiving total in NFL playoff history (220+ yards and two touchdowns). Pats’ cornerback Aqib Talib – one of the best in the biz – will do his best to shut down the Luck-Hilton pass play, but I have a feeling Hilton is feeling pretty confident after his clinic last week in KC.
Tune in to CBS on Saturday at 5:15pm PST/8:15pm EST.